According to reports, Sony is seeking to convince authorities to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard once again, citing their continued belief that Microsoft will not provide them with parity on Call of Duty should they acquire the company.
Microsoft has assured the public on multiple occasions that this is not the case, going so far as to offer Sony decade-long contracts in exchange for the inclusion of Call of Duty on their system; nonetheless, as frustrating as it may be, there is no realistic scenario in which Sony cooperates.
Their protestations will either succeed in killing the deal, which is what they want, or they will fail, and the acquisition will go through, in which case Microsoft will hand them Call of Duty nonetheless. Microsoft’s argument here feels like it’s quickly rebuffed, and I wonder if, in the end, it’s going to sway regulators.
Still, I believe that Microsoft is telling the truth about being willing to keep Call of Duty on PlayStation, and Sony is lying about not believing Microsoft to cause trouble. After Sony’s recent rebuttal, Microsoft’s communications lead, Frank Shaw, resorted to Twitter to rehash old talking points.
Microsoft wants to sell copies of Call of Duty on PlayStation because, as the argument goes, Sony is the dominant player in the market. However, Microsoft’s “case by case” approach to implementing this idea leaves them vulnerable to criticism. And they…don’t seem to have the resources to respond that:
If Microsoft thinks it’s a good idea to sell Call of Duty on PlayStation, then it must also be a good idea to sell Redfall, Starfield, and the next Elder Scrolls game on PlayStation, right? This might amount to millions of dollars in sales for Xbox and PC. Still, Microsoft has done the arithmetic and decided it makes more “commercial sense” to keep these titles exclusive to those platforms rather than PlayStation.
Similarly, I believe that the inverse may be stated and at least appear to be true. Call of Duty is the most successful shooting game franchise in the world, and it may make “excellent commercial sense” for Microsoft to host the franchise exclusively on its consoles.
Many people are reacting negatively to this. One wonders why Microsoft has to adhere to this criteria, yet nobody wonders why PlayStation doesn’t port God of War, Spider-Man, or The Last of Us across to Xbox.
In contrast to Microsoft, attempting to convince regulators to accept the largest acquisition in video game history by a wide margin, Sony is not trying to acquire a $70 billion publisher and hence does not need to make such arguments. This means the requirements are more stringent.
This chart that Microsoft created to explain why games like Starfield and Redfall work well as exclusives but others like Call of Duty and Minecraft don’t was also brought to my attention. The argument here is that newer, unproven intellectual properties like Redfall and Starfield are worth more as exclusives than older, tried-and-true ones like Minecraft and Call of Duty, which must remain cross-platform because of their large, dedicated player bases.
Sony's gaming chief Jim Ryan met EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on Wednesday (January 25th) to discuss Microsoft's $69 billion bid for "Call of Duty" maker Activision Blizzard, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday
— Roberto Serrano' 🇺🇦☮️🙏🏻 | 📊🎮🍿 (@geronimo_73_) January 27, 2023
Yes, but once we stop talking about those two games specifically, your reasoning falls apart. Even though the Elder Scrolls franchise has sold millions of copies across all platforms and is a widely established IP, Microsoft has strongly hinted that Elder Scrolls VI will likely be an Xbox exclusive.
At the latest count, 30 million copies of Skyrim had been purchased. Then why not release it for PlayStation? Since there is only one player, why? Especially if we’re talking about what does and does not make “business sense,” I’m at a loss to see the relevance of that statement.
An argument could be made that Call of Duty’s annual sales and microtransactions generate enough revenue to warrant cross-platform releases. Of course, Microsoft has its proprietary multiplayer games featuring microtransactions. After all, both Starfield and Elder Scroll will feature downloadable content.
Reuters reports that Jim Ryan, Sony's PlayStation chief, met the European Commission's antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager on Wednesday to discuss Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition. The EU is set to rule on the deal by April 11th https://t.co/s5dKGkcgAS
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) January 27, 2023
Microsoft’s reasoning seems completely random regarding what they choose to make exclusive and what they don’t, and that’s the main problem. They can claim that it is in the company’s “best interests” to maintain Call of Duty on PlayStation.
Still, they can easily sidestep the question of the many other games that would sell just as many copies on any other platform. In this case, I have faith in Microsoft and doubt in Sony’s good intentions. But that’s irrelevant because I’m not a regulator, and they’ve shown to be far more dubious about the whole thing and have accepted Sony’s arguments so far. Microsoft is still optimistic that the acquisition will go through.